.Blues Legend Musselwhite Back in SoCo

In an age of performers making their name as Instagram influencers and TikTok flavors of the month, Charlie Musselwhite is the equivalent of a landline—steady, reliable and a link to the past.

Born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, the 78-year-old musician has spent a career dating back to his 1967 debut, Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s Southside Band, being a blues standard-bearer.

His journey continues on the recently released Mississippi Son, a stripped-down collection of 14 songs featuring the harmonica player singing and picking up a guitar to present a mix of originals and nuggets originally recorded by an array of storied names, including Yank Rachell, The Stanley Brothers and Charley Patton.

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose

It’s Musselwhite’s first solo outing since moving back to Clarksdale, Mississippi, about a year and a half ago from Geyserville in Sonoma County. Climate change prompted the harp player and his wife/manager, Henrietta Musselwhite, to pull up stakes and return to the Delta.

“We were having the fires (in California) every year,” he explained in a recent phone interview. “The last time, we could see it coming. If the wind hadn’t changed, we might have gotten burned out. We figured it was inevitable that we would at some point, so why wait for that? It was really horrible.”

Mississippi Son came about after Musselwhite started hanging out at friend Gary Vincent’s nearby studio, noodling around on guitar. Before long, Vincent was hitting records, drummer Ricky Martin and upright bassist Barry Bays were recruited, and Mississippi Son was the result.

Fans can expect to hear songs from Mississippi Son and more at the July 20 show at the Luther Burbank Center with Elvin Bishop and Taj Mahal.

“I do some tunes that people request, and I have some new songs they haven’t heard before,” said Musselwhite. “I might even play guitar—who knows? It depends on the situation and how much time I have. A lot of people don’t even know that I play guitar, so that’s a departure. I didn’t even know how people would react to [my playing on Mississippi Son], but it’s just been overwhelming. People are just loving it. I’m happily surprised—it’s a nice thing.”

The Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite Duo open for The Taj Mahal Quintet at 7pm, Saturday, July 20, at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa. As noted previously, tickets start at $76.70 and are available at lutherburbankcenter.org/event/taj-mahal24.

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